Above: Our evening session on “Christian Witness Among Refugees”
It’s been a great week of training here in Minnesota this week. I’m so encouraged to see how everyone is connecting and wrestling with the sessions. How good to see brothers and sisters committed to serving refugees in life-giving ways.
Falingi (above with flag in hand) became an American today along with 731 other people from 81 different countries of origin.
This is a big deal, because Falingi has been a refugee for most of his life. Unchecked violence made his homeland uninhabitable. As he was without parents, his uncle took him into his family. I met them over 10 years ago in Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi – among the world’s poorest nations.
Dzaleka was a political prison before it was turned into a refugee camp in 1994 (in response to a wave of refugees fleeing genocide in Rwanda). Life is hard in Dzaleka.
Above: Dzaleka refugee camp. There are 40,000 Falingis in Dzaleka today.
This is why refugee resettlement to countries like the USA is so important. It offers people like Falingi a chance to regain place in the world and rebuild his life.
It is a travesty that the US has slashed refugee resettlement numbers from an average of 75,000/year to just 18,000 this year.
I spoke with several of the new US citizens today. They were so happy and so proud. Like Falingi, they want to work hard and be a net contributor to society.
In there eyes I saw an America that gave me hope and inspiration.
I met Henry Crosby today. He’s the Sr. Director of Social Responsibility at the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities this morning. We met at the Y’s Equity and Innovation Center in downtown Minneapolis. A friend from a past church brought us together. I’m glad she did.
I was so impressed with Henry and the Y’s Equity Center. God knows our city needs the kind of services they offer with the aim of bringing people together. I really appreciate the heart, passion and humility of the Y’s staff.
The Y’s New Americans program is an initiative that is helping refugees and asylum seekers and other migrants find their feet and their place in our society. I’m hoping our local Jonathan House residents will one day benefit from some of their programs!
I discovered that Henry lives near my childhood home in Golden Valley! We’re around the same age so we took a brief detour down memory lane talking about a place in which we share history. Once again Inexperienced how shared place is a powerful connecting force between people.
Sone unlikely threads came together today – a friend from a former church, Golden Valley and a concern for the welfare of displaced people. That was special. And it just might lead to mutual blessing down the road.
My wife and I escaped the winter storm in Minnesota to spend Thanksgiving on the family farm in central Missouri. Apparently 8″ of white stuff fell on our home after we left on Tuesday.
I hope your thanksgiving is filled with gratitude for Gods faithfulness this week 🦃
Meanwhile I continue to read Richard Twiss’s “Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys”. It seems appropriate as we celebrate and remember the welcome and hospitality the early Europeans received from indigenous people here (and reflect on how those who received it quickly turned around and abused those who welcomed them).
This is a continuation of the severe weather warning I began earlier last week – sharing global trends related to forced displacement. The sobering forecast predicting severe weather cannot be ignored as nations and the international community consider how to navigate what’s coming.
5. Many of the wealthiest and most powerful nations of the world are reducing their support of humanitarian aid. Many international humanitarian agencies were forced to cut their already thread bare budgets by 30% at the start of 2019. This reduced food rations, emergency shelter materials and many other resources that are essential to the survival of forcibly displaced people.
6. Many wealthy and powerful nations are ramping up efforts to offshore asylum seekers for processing. The EU paid Turkey billions of Euros to keep Syrian and other refugees within its borders. The EU is increasing efforts to hold asylum seekers in Libya (itself at civil war) for processing. Libya is now sending asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing. The US is increasing efforts to process asylum seekers in Mexico. The trend is for wealthy nations to pay poorer nations to hold asylum seekers at arms length.
Another couple of factors behind the severe weather warning to be posted soon.
I am presently with a group of 17 other Christian leaders for four days of meetings here in Bangkok.
We are all connected through the Refugee Highway Partnership (RHP), a global network of Christians serving refugees that I helped launch back in 2001.
The RHP has grown significantly over the years and it is high time that we updated some of the structure and systems that keep us all connected.
With networks well established in Europe, North America, Brazil and Turkey – and emerging networks in East Africa, Oceana, South Asia and Central America, the RHP plays an important role in raising awareness of refugee realities and the unique role the church can play in helping people survive and recover from forced displacement.
This shrine (photo) is across the street from the Christian Guest House that is hosting us.
The text came during supper tonight. A man in the Twin Cities needs shelter…
He fled Somali and while uprooted has come to be a follower of Jesus. And while the US government acknowledges that he would likely be killed for his faith if deported back to Somalia, it still refused to give him asylum – permanent refuge and a pathway to citizenship. So the US will not deport him – but they will also not grant him place – or even a work permit at this time.
How is someone supposed to live in the US without a work permit?
It’s a cruel joke as it feeds the misinformed stereotype that refugees and migrants are lazy. This man desperately wants to work and earn his keep. But the US won’t let him.
He’s spent the past 18 months in a Salvation Army shelter. Their policy is to limit people to 12 months in a shelter – but they understand this brother has nowhere to go.
A friend of mine who once worked in Somalia asked if IAFR might have a space for this brother in one of our Jonathan Houses – homes in which we offer shelter to asylum seekers during the 6-18 months that they are not able to legally work in the US while their case is examined. They don’t even get access to social services during this time.
It’s like we are trying to set vulnerable people up to fail.
I messaged our local IAFR Ministry Leader about this need. She quickly replied that there is a space open in the Jonathan House for men. Within a couple of hours I was able to connect my friend with our team in Minnesota.
This is when the church shines.
Strangers connect through the amazing network of the Church in order to help a vulnerable stranger in our community.
Even if we are able to meet this Somali brother’s need for shelter, he still faces life challenges the size of Goliath. He needs our prayers. He needs a supportive community of faith. He needs healing after living in a state of toxic stress for so many years. He needs place.
For these we pray. So be it.
Hmmmm. It looks like I must be speaking somewhere this Sunday morning.
I will be at Awaken Community Church in St. Paul. It happens to be our home church. You are most welcome to join us! Be sure to say hi!
I came across this chart while preparing for a training session I’ll be giving this weekend to a group of Christians serving resettled refugees in San Diego. It shows how the use of the word “friendship” has been in decline over the past 200+ years, starting at 1800 and ending at 2008. It resonates as true and struck a deep chord of sorrow in my heart.
As I reflect on this I realize how often I speak in terms of the need to build relationships rather than friendships. Perhaps because the word “relationships” feels less demanding?
While friendships grow out of relationships, all too often I settle for less than the pursuit of friendship with others. And yet it is friendship for which I long. I bet that is true for most of us – including those who have been forced to flee their homes and homelands.
Among the things I want to emphasize in the training session is the need for us to not only help refugees in “practical” ways and through various programs – but by building authentic friendships with them.
“We cared so deeply that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our own lives as well. That is how beloved you have become to us.”
The Apostle Paul | 1 Thessalonians 2:8
Something wonderful happened in February while I was in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. It happened in Atlanta, GA…
A young lady named Appoline who came to the US as a refugee embraced Jesus as the Christ – her Savior and Lord.
This didn’t happen by chance. Many years ago, God moves a Filipina named Sharon to Atlanta to serve as a missionary among refugees. And Sharon connected with Appoline. And she proceeded to connect Appoline with a church there. And God set all this in motion so that Appoline would discover that she is loved by the Creator and Redeemer of all things.
Sharon serves in Atlanta with IAFR. She has a highly relational ministry that includes helping refugee youth discover the love of God.
What a privilege it is to support missionaries like Sharon with a calling to help refugees survive and recover from forced displacement! How encouraging to see God at work through her faithful ministry.
Lives are being transformed along the Refugee Highway.